ANDERSON—The Colts first preseason contest, this Saturday against St. Louis, is always a true test for the rookies it’s when coaches find out how well they've taken to the playbook and the pro game. But, it’s not always the first year players out with something to prove. The Colts' first round pick from last season, Jerry Hughes, is trying to bounce back from a subpar rookie campaign where he played in just 12 games adding 6 tackles. Hughes was selected 31st overall in the 2010 NFL draft and is also still chasing his first sack in the NFL.
"It was a rough rookie season but that's behind me right now. I'm focused on the future and I've worked hard on the offseason to get myself in shape and went over the playbook and everything like that and now I'm just looking forward to this one right here," said Hughes.
Hughes spent the offseason adding muscle and running sprints to return leaner and faster. So far it seems to show, he's shown increased speed during positional drills running through tackling dummies. Currently, Hughes sits behind Defensive End Dwight Freeney on the depth chart but come Saturday he should be able to show off his improvement from year one to year two. The Colts starters are only expected to play a few series against St. Louis so Hughes is expected to get a lot of playing time.
"The offseason gave me a lot of time to work on the playbook and get really familiar with things and also work on my body and get myself in shape so that way when it comes time to play football I'm ready to go," said Hughes.
"He's coming along, Jerry obviously is a talented guy, he just needs to go out there and be confident," said Colts' defensive captain Gary Brackett.
If anyone can teach Hughes how to play the position at the pro level, it's two of the best defensive ends in the league, Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis. Both of them know it often takes a defensive lineman a full season to grasp the NFL game. Just consider their history, Freeney didn't win a starting job until midway through his rookie season and Mathis didn't start a single game in his first year with the Colts, finishing with 3 and 1/2 sacks.
"They're two Pro-Bowl guys. They know how to play the position well and they can get after the quarterback and they have so many moves that you can just sit back and learn from," said Hughes.